Picture in your mind the devastation you’ve seen of the tar sands mining that takes place in northern Alberta, images of large open pits in the middle of the wilderness easily visible from space.
Then picture the images you’ve seen of devastation due to flooding and hurricanes in places such as Grand Isle, Louisiana, and Breezy Point, New York.
The road from one horrific disaster scene to another just got a little faster, and this new shortcut bulldozes right through Dane County.
Picture a nondescript aluminum building along a back road in the town of Medina, just 20 miles from Downtown Madison. This building, owned by a $126 billion Canadian company called Enbridge Energy, has guards stationed night and day at the entry point next to a large electrical substation amid an otherwise pleasant southern Wisconsin countryside.
As construction inside that building is completed, a new pipeline pumping station will rev up. With 12 other Enbridge pumping stations across Wisconsin, the capacity of the this pipeline to carry oil under pressure will more than double. More oil flow means more spill risks all along the pipeline.
A group of local citizens asked Enbridge to buy insurance that would help pay for any cleanup that may become necessary but, when required by Dane County to do so, Enbridge fought the requirement in court.
So now we not only face heightened risks of spills, but Wisconsin becomes a prime route to funnel oil out of the landlocked Alberta tar sands, the third largest oil deposit in the world. At a time when climate scientists are telling us to kick our addiction to oil in the next 20 years or leave an uninhabitable world for our children, expansion of this field and delivery system would be the height of irresponsibility.
With Donald Trump’s recent withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement as a backdrop, red flags are flying. It’s going to take a lot of work to reverse this dangerous course.
So when you’re thinking about large-scale global components of climate change, those distant pictures of devastation and policy blunders, there’s no better illustration than that pump station in the town of Medina that the fight for our planet is right here.
Despite the increasingly competitive cost of renewable alternatives, the outdated energy infrastructure of the last century will not be stopped by market forces alone. It will take more teeth than even the Paris Climate Accord had to move us into the 21st century. Players such as Enbridge continue to see the prospect of profit for what they expect will be the 60-year life of this pipeline.
To turn this around, our 350 Madison Climate Action Team is working to respond to local circumstances, increase citizen awareness and action, change local energy use and build opposition to continued policy and investment blunders.
Become informed. Take action. There is work to do.